Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Oh, Mr. Rochester...

Darwin knows the way to my heart: he rented Jane Eyre.



When I saw it in the theater with Betty Duffy, we turned to each other at the end and sighed, "Perfect."

Only quibble: Jane does not use the word "automaton". I miss it. But the rest is sumptuous enough that I excuse the screenwriters.

12 comments:

JoAnna said...

I loved it too!

Brandon said...

While I tend to like Jane Eyre in general -- although not with such hardcore interest as to see film adaptations of it in the theater -- I have been hesitant to rent this one because of Miriam Burstein's review of it; which makes it sound like all my favorite parts were eviscerated.

mrsdarwin said...

Brandon, perhaps. One must compress a fair amount in order to fit a verbose novel such as Jane in a two-hour span, and believe me, the Orson Welles version was a complete travesty. (Hey, Orson, it's called an English accent. Try it on for character work.) I was unphased by most of the changes Miriam points out -- not every bit of symbolism or thematic material fits well in a carefully crafted movie script, which in this case is a distillation of a book, which is reality distilled.

I will say that the alteration which was most disappointing to me, and which Miriam rightly underlines, was the absence of any religious undertones to Jane's refusal of Rochester after the great denouement at the church. She will not consent to be his mistress because she must respect herself, which begs the question of what respect would be lost by overstepping a mere obstacle of convention. And yet even in this degenerate age it is understood that there is something base about becoming the mistress of a man who is still married, and to a sick wife, even if he is one's "soulmate".

I'm not going to lie: I find the novel Jane Eyre to be a bit lushly overwritten at times. And I liked this version best of all I've seen. Take that as a recommendation, if you will.

mrsdarwin said...

Okay, I can't let some of the critiques in Miriam's review go by without comment. I'm not sure what she was watching, but I picked up plenty of chemistry between Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender, and I thought that their early interchanges established a mental equality that was clearly out of range of the other characters. Not to mention that Mr. Rochester's attraction to Jane, intellectual if not immediately sexual, is established from the beginning. In other versions I think his attraction seems to spring out of nowhere. And as Jane frequently trembled with suppressed emotion, I think the "unpassionate" critique is a bit uncalled for. Not letting emotion hang out all over the place is called "acting", and Wasikowska does it well.

I'm also going to take issue with this: "Calvinist caricatures like Mr. Brocklehurst or St. John Rivers are countered not by Jane's Bible-based Godliness, but by all-consuming romantic love; this Rochester may be "deceitful," as Jane mournfully informs him, but there is no sign of the novel's insistence that Jane's passion for him was itself a sin." Jane's Bible-based Godliness? If we're going to be throwing around what is and isn't the language of Bronte, this ain't it. And why should the movie portray Jane's passion for Rochester as a sin? It isn't, interpretations of Bronte to the contrary. That's the difference between Jane and Rochester: when she hears him bemoan "convention", she thinks of the social difference between a lord and his governess, which is indeed a contruct; what Rochester means is making his barely post-adolescence employee his mistress while his wife is locked in the attic.

The restructuring of the film, putting Jane's stay with the Rivers family first, is (I think) the only way of making St. John Rivers a less-than-despicable character to a modern audience. Because he's kind of creepy, really, when you meet him after Mr. Rochester. And I think Jamie Bell is plenty conventionally handsome, even without looking like a Greek god. So there.

JMB said...

I took my 8 year old to see it with me and she couldn't understand why Jane didn't want to marry St. John! I think she may have missed the whole point of the movie:)

BettyDuffy said...

Agree!

I know what I'm going to be doing tonight--time for an encore presentation of Jane Eyre.

We watched Soul Surfer the other day, and I think everyone needs a palate cleanser after that.

Miriam said...

And why should the movie portray Jane's passion for Rochester as a sin? It isn't, interpretations of Bronte to the contrary.

But that's Jane's own interpretation of her passion for Rochester, pre-Bertha--"He stood between me and every thought of religion, as an eclipse intervenes between man and the broad sun. I could not, in those days, see God for his creature: of whom I had made an idol." That's pretty high up on the "sin" list (and has some loaded connotations for a Victorian readership in the 1840s, too). The post-idol phase, on the other hand...

mrsdarwin said...

Miriam, I won't dig myself in deeper, because frankly I'd forgotten that line and I didn't pull out the text before commenting.

Brandon said...

MrsD,

Since you liked it, I'll probably pick it up at some point; even if it does chop things I like, sometimes a few savvy changes, as you say, do make a movie work as a movie.

mrsdarwin said...

Brandon, I don't know which moments are your favorites, but the deleted scenes did restore some moments I would have liked to remain in the film. Interestingly enough, the ghost of Helen Burns made several very effective appearances. Let me say right now that I don't remember if Helen's gentle spirit ever guided Jane in the novel, etc., but it seemed as if the filmmakers were using her as a stand-in for religious inspiration. None of that made it into the movie, though.

JMB said...

I think Helen's gentle spirit did guide Jane in the novel.

Anima said...

The last version I've seen was this one http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0780362, with Ruth Wilson and Toby Stephens, and liked it.
Btw.I've read and reread Jane Eyre maybe 20 times, and never get bored :-)).